Equipment manager who helped usher in a new era for his peers is recognized by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
Lawrence, Kan. (Dec. 29. 2015) - At 37, Stephen Tucker, equipment manager at Tranquillo Golf Club at Four Seasons in Golden Oak, Fla., may seem too young to be awarded his profession’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. However, in just 16 years in the profession, Tucker helped found a national membership organization for golf course equipment managers, oversaw development of the first recognized certificate program for technicians, and ushered the organization’s members into the next phase of opportunities. For his efforts, Tucker is being honored with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s 2015 Edwin Budding Award.
The Edwin Budding Award, named for the inventor of the lawnmower and presented in partnership with Ransomes/Jacobsen, is given to equipment managers and related innovators, technicians, educators, or engineers who have made a significant impact in the golf and turf business.
Tucker will be presented with the award in January at the British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association’s Turf Management Exhibition in Harrogate, England.
“It’s very humbling to be chosen for the Budding Award,” Tucker said. “But I feel that I still have a lot more to do in the industry. I would also not be where I am without all the leaders and volunteers I had with me. I want to accept the award on behalf of all of those guys.”
A native of Live Oak, Fla., and a graduate of Lake City College (now Florida Gateway College), Tucker has spent more than 16 years in the industry and was instrumental in the formation of the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association in 2007. He said he began contacting other equipment managers from across the country to form an association so that the career path for equipment managers could be more than just going from job to job. IGCEMA would eventually become a partner in the annual Golf Industry Show and establish a certificate program that recognized technicians for demonstrating proficiency in six key competencies. Tucker would serve as the first president of IGCEMA and eventually become its executive director.
“Stephen Tucker truly personifies the ideas behind the Budding Award,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “His innovative thinking helped establish a network of knowledge and camaraderie for equipment managers from coast to coast. His efforts not only benefitted equipment managers, but the facilities they serve and the industry as a whole.”
In just a few short years, however, IGCEMA was starting to feel the weight of its own success. Tucker said the association, which offered memberships for free and relied on volunteers, would need to consider hiring paid staff to increase IGCEMA’s offerings, as its growth had outpaced its resources. Tucker had originally entered the golf industry through a friend who was studying to be a superintendent and always understood the partnership between the two disciplines, so after meeting with GCSAA Past President Patrick Finlen, certified golf course superintendent and general manager at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, the answer was clear.
“It was going to be difficult to push ahead, so we had to ask the question: What was best for equipment managers moving forward?” Tucker said. “GCSAA was the answer to that.”
On April 27, 2015, GCSAA and IGEMA approved a membership union between the two organizations. IGCEMA would dissolve, and GCSAA would offer an equipment manager membership classification. While this meant the end of IGCEMA, it also meant greater professional development and networking opportunities for equipment managers. As part of the agreement, GCSAA took over the Edwin Budding Award.
It seemed a natural progression to Tucker, who said he has always seen a positive relationship between equipment manager and superintendent as key to a great golf operation. The feeling is mutual with Tranquillo GC’s superintendent, GCSAA member Rusty Wilson.
“Stephen is always pushing innovation and how to make things easier while improving the overall golf course product.” Wilson said. “Stephen is the best of the best, and he should be recognized for all of his efforts – not only for doing his day-to-day job, but his continued efforts to raise the bar within the golf industry."